The traditional wedding ceremony is
heavily loaded with gender-role stereotypes. Even
today, gender-laden ceremonies are the norm.
But, even before Marriage Equality became a reality
in late 2017, Australian couples could choose to use
the gender-neutral word
not legally required to be given away. Nor were they
legally required to be the passive recipient of The
Kiss with no say in the matter, the groom being
given permission to kiss his (or worse,
What did Marriage
The obvious change (yay) was that the couple
standing up in front of their guests, pledging
their lives to one another, do not have to be one
female bride and one male groom. You can be who
you are, the gender you are, regardless of the
gender of the person you want to spend the rest of
your life with. As a result, the definition of
marriage, required to be recited by every civil
celebrant before a couple makes their vows, saw a
man and a woman
changed to two people.
A second positive change was to the terminology
you can use when you make your vows.
The option of taking your best beloved as your
husband, or wife, remains. So you can marry as
husband and wife, husband and husband, or wife and
wife. The option of using the gender-neutral word,
spouse, also remains.
A new gender-neutral term was added. Couples can
now pledge their lives to one another as partner-in-marriage
Interestingly, while pre-Marriage Equality the use
of the word partner
was not permitted in a
legal marriage ceremony, due to the ambiguity of
the term, it was the term of choice for same sex
couples having a non-legal wedding (commitment
ceremony). Post Marriage Equality, same sex
couples appear to overwhelmingly favour the use of
husband and husband
or wife and wife
(and why wouldn't they, having fought so hard for
it), a significant proportion of the heterosexual
couples I marry are choosing to say partner-in-marriage.
What about the
Prior to Marriage Equality you had no choice. The
relevant columns in the Notice of Intended
Marriage were headed Bridegroom
with those terms (and order) transferred to your
marriage certificates, both the official
certificate that proves your marriage has been
registered and the certificate you are presented
with on the day.
Marriage Equality changed the column headings
Partner 1 and Partner 2 (allowing you to decide
who would be which) and removed those terms from
the Presentation Certificate.
Two sets of checkboxes were added to the Notice.
How you choose to describe yourselves (Groom,
Bride, or Partner) and your sex (Male, Female, X).
So there is still a whisper of the previous
hierachy in the order ...
On your official marriage certificate the terms
you chose, and only those, will appear.
Making sure your
ceremony isn't traditionally gendered
The way it has always been done.
words that make the hair on the back of my neck
stand up. Tradition isn't law. In many ways,
wedding tradition is peer pressure from Queen
Victoria, long-dead aristocrats, and the white
Take that to heart.
- your wedding party doesn't have to be
divided along strictly gender lines
- there are many more ways of getting
yourselves up the front than one person
walking towards the other
- one of you does not have to be given away to
- you can wear whatever you like without any
regard to heteronormative styling.
Regardless of how much pressure others may
apply to try to make you confirm to gender
stereotypes, you are legally entitled to ignore
Thanks for reading!